Saturday 28 April 2018
Scottish League One
HT   0 - 0
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Ayr United v Albion Rovers | Team Lineups

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Ayr United v Albion Rovers | Match Report

The Whole Team

Ayr United are champions of League 1 after a two-goal victory over Albion Rovers catapulted them above Raith Rovers who failed to win against Alloa Athletic at Starks Park.

United were ahead at the break after an opener from Craig Moore on 33 mins and Declan McDaid put the game to bed with the second, just 5 mins from the end. Suddenly all ears were to radios, eyes to mobile phones and players stared into the stands waiting for some sign of the result from Kirkcaldy.

3 interminable minutes passed by as nerves jangled, hearts pounded and breathing either halted or raced to almost hyperventilation. Then came the shout, Raith had drawn 0 – 0: Ayr were champions! Cue an explosion of noise and relief as Ayr fans jumped the boundary wall to celebrate with their heroes on the Somerset Park turf. Players were enveloped in a sea of black and white joy as an outpouring of love for everything Ayr United flooded the home of the Honest Men. Strangers hugged strangers, tears flowed down faces and voices soared, chanting the news that Ayr were going up, the love for Lawrence Shankland, and every number belonged to Jamie Adams.

Suddenly a helicopter clattered overhead, the announcer asked for the park to clear so that the trophy could be presented. Minutes later the airborne SPFL League 1 trophy was being marched out of the tunnel, along with a palette of shining medals adorned with black and white ribbons. Somerset Park roared as the trophy was raised, in recognition of the team that had roared back to the Championship in one season, scoring goals by the bagful and playing entertaining and attacking football. This was a team that had endured crippling injuries to key players but had shown grit and determination to achieve this accolade. After the game, Ian McCall stated, ‘The bottom line is, and I don’t think anyone can quibble, that we’re the best football team in this league’. Well, no quibbling here: the final league position, points total and goal difference figures don’t lie and fully back up the manager’s assertion.

But spare a thought for Albion Rovers’ players who found themselves sitting in their dressing room listening to the sounds of celebration all around as it sunk in that they were relegated to League 2 following Queens’ Park’s unexpected victory over Arbroath at Hampden.

Ayr dominated the opening period of the match, attacking in relentless waves as they tried to get the upper hand in this vital match for both sides.  With just 5 mins on the clock, Ayr went close. Rose, pressing forward, flicked the ball wide and behind Holmes allowing Moffat to get to the line. The striker then chipped the ball across the face of goal where Moore’s diving header was saved at point blank distance by keeper Wright’s instinctive reactions.

4 mins later, Alan Forrest ran into the box to meet a Jamie Adams’ long ball and slammed a drive off the bar. Close as it was, the far-side official had his flag raised for offside. Then on 14 mins, United had the ball in the net when Moffat hit home from 5 yards from a McDaid cross only to see the flag raised again.

Next, it was Crawford’s turn. After some neat interplay, Forrest cut in from the left, skipping past two defenders at the edge of the box before slipping the ball to Crawford some 25 yards out.  The midfielder took one touch before releasing his shot which bobbled inches wide.

Ayr were dominant and the visitors almost invisible in attack, so it came as something of a surprise when the ‘wee Rovers’ almost took the lead just 2 mins later.

Bell failed to control a ball that came at him at speed from a ruck of players in the centre circle and Albion striker Higgins nipped in and charged towards goal. The Ayr defence was caught well out of position and Adams and Ferguson sprinted back to try and make up ground. Higgins was forced right by Adams but still managed to hit the ball across the face of goal, past Hart and towards McMullin who was charging in at the back post. Whether by some miracle, a bobble off the turf, or through lack of composure as Ferguson slid in in a desperate attempt to block: somehow the Albion winger put the ball high and wide from less than a yard out.  Collective swift and audible intakes of breath from the Somerset Park faithful before turning the volume up to 11.

Then came the goal that United’s play deserved. Ayr were awarded a corner on the right and McDaid’s looping and curling ball was met by Adams’ head and Wright could only palm the ball to Moore who turned the ball home from a yard out.  Ayr were one up, and nothing was going to stop them now.

Halftime and it remained 1 – 0 to Ayr while up in Kirkcaldy Raith and Alloa were still goalless. Tension created numbness kept out the chill of the icy rain that had replaced the sunshine of early in the afternoon, prayers were being whispered, superstitions honoured, runes read, and omens interpreted.  45 almost unbearable minutes to go before United’s fate would be decided. In the dressing room, the team listened as the gaffer encouraged them to focus, remain professional and do what they had to do: and they did listen.

Albion Rovers, stung by the knowledge that Queens Park were ahead at Hampden, came out with an extra intensity and intent to their play but United maintained their supremacy.  It took only minutes for Ayr to get the ball into the back of the net again, with Moore getting onto a long and looping pass into the box from Kerr before placing his shot past Wright. Yet again celebrations were cut short, this time by the raised flag of the stand side official.

United created chance after chance, McDaid (twice), Moore, substitute McGuffie and Bell all thwarted but on 85 mins Ayr ensured victory with their second goal of the match.

Moffat raced down the right before clipping the ball across the face of the goal where McDaid raced home, ignored the attentions of Scullion, and put the ball in the back of the net. Ayr were 2 – 0 up and the game was over.

Few who were at the game will forget those anxious moments as everyone strained to find out the score at Kirkcaldy, the sudden excruciating silence, the miraculous return of bright sunshine, the sudden explosion of joy and realisation that marked the final whistle at Starks Park, the pitch invasion and all that followed.

Back in July, we all stood in hope and, as we reported then, ‘the 2017-18 Scottish football season burst into being in the most magnificent of fashions: a local derby and a ‘giant’ being brought to its knees in humiliating fashion’. Now, in April 2018, United are SPFL League 1 Champions, we have witnessed some amazing results, so many goals, and a team of quality under manager Ian McCall.

‘I am incredibly proud of that group of players and they deserve to be spoken of in the same way as Ally MacLeod’s, Super Ally’s, team because they’ve scored a hundred and odd, and I think we are the second highest scoring team in Ayr United’s history’ said the gaffer.

2017-18 Champions of the SPFL League 1: Ayr United. 

Ayr United v Albion Rovers | Match Timeline


Ayr United v Albion Rovers | Match Stats

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Ayr United v Albion Rovers | Media

All Images are © David Sargent and Ayr United FC and may not be used without permission

Match Highlights
Post Match Interviews
Net Cam and a few celebrations
Celebrate Good Times
Stay Calm and Carry on